A second lockdown; we are all feeling it, the pain, restriction, worry, strain, uncertainty. I have not posted here these last six months. Not that I haven’t had anything to say into this situation, but there has been so much social media presence – posts, vlogs, links, words, voices, that I have been unsure of the wisdom of adding to the noise.
As a friend wisely said recently, ‘Christians are busy trying to discern what is God saying, what is God doing, is it more helpful to ask what is Jesus, the great intercessor in heaven, praying?’ And so I have spent time praying, watching, thinking and working rather than blogging.
Yet I will share something, a prayer vision that I had two weeks ago. Only because it may be relevant in considering how God is at work in his church and amongst his people in the middle of this strange and restricted time. I was meditating in prayer, and was aware of the Lord sitting quietly with me on a seashore, a place you might imagine from the gospels like the shore of Galilee. Then I sensed Jesus get up and walk down to the water’s edge. He picked up a whole line of ropes lying on the pebbles leading into the water. And He pulled on them hard and persistently. As he did so, I realised that Jesus was pulling a multitude of small boats into shore. He heaved them up and out onto the beach. With helpers, Jesus then turned each boat upside down and started examining the hulls. They were in different states of health, some were good, many were battered and in need of urgent repair. He went along inspecting the underside of every vessel, to see what attention it needed, and whether it could be made seaworthy again. Jesus seemed to talking with these angelic helpers, and proceeded to mark some boats for retirement and to be pulled further onto the beach; others to be reassigned for other duties, and others to be refitted and pushed back for new sailing adventures.
That is what I saw as I watched Jesus in this prayer vision. I sat with this picture for a long while, and felt the interpretation was about the Lord pulling us as churches, ministries and christian organisations into a ‘dry dock’ place. As you may know, a dry dock is a place for holding boats that need inspection and attention. Boats are supported and held in place as water is removed from the dock. The hulls are therefore exposed so that, what is under the water line can be seen and assessed clearly. A dry dock gives time for careful inspection of the vessel, for washing and blasting to see the damage caused by service on the high seas, and then for repairing, refitting and painting for purpose. A clear purpose in a dry dock time is to see if the boat can be made seaworthy again, more fuel efficient and long lasting, and then ready to be commissioned once more for life on the sea.
Life for God’s church is as difficult as it is for the rest of the nation, and I think it is supposed to be that way. We are all living with restriction and challenge, despite many good things taking place in virtual worship engagement, a multitude of good works, and a fresh stirring to pray. Yet I have to wonder if God is doing something deeper amongst us as his people. Is God using this time to force us to look with him at the things that are exposed by being in a dry dock? In the prayer vision, I didn’t get the impression that Jesus was asking for our permission as he hauled us out of the water, turned us ceremonially on our backs and examined the state of our hidden, more submerged life. He didn’t seem to be talking to us as he considered whether we were to be retired, reassigned or recommissioned. It felt as if we were in his hands and under his gaze, not the most comfortable of places to be. Yet the intention of his heart seemed to be to repair, refit and repurpose as many boast as he could, and that was encouraging. To anchor this biblically for a moment, this whole picture is not that dissimilar from the images of the divine potter with his clay, from the great vine and its branches, from the one with eyes of blazing fire who says, ‘I know your deeds’.
So I share this prayerfully, as many churches have a month of prayer this November. We are of course praying for the nation, for mercy and help, for favour and healing, for a future and a hope out of this pandemic. But maybe in our praying, we can also ask for Jesus to have his way with his church, and to prepare us for heaven’s use, to be more ready for the kingdom adventures; that our hearts, congregations and ministries would be more fit for purpose and fresh recommissioning, in a coming season of uncertainty yet possibly also a season of spiritual awakening across the earth.
God bless you.